Last year, Oak redesigned its website in a week; we proffered that the company was nuts. But the idea was actually sound, forcing the agency's team to deal with its own site, which had languished for some time. Oak’s since been at it again, but clearly reckons an entire week is some kind of luxury. The latest site redesign was instead done in a single intense 24-hour stint.
Oak founder Skylar Challand spoke to .net about the redesign and how forced quick thinking can benefit web designers.
.net: You already did the fast-redesign thing once, so why do it again?
Challand: Last year’s one-week redesign was exhausting, but it was also surprisingly fun and very rewarding for the team. While we were proud of what we accomplished in a week, there were a few things we couldn’t get around to. We wanted to better feature our products – Dropmark, Symbolset and Siteleaf – and show off work we do. So instead of teaching an old dog new tricks, we decided to create something new that would better explain where we are going as a company.
.net: But why 24 hours? Are you crazy or something?
Challand: In short, yes. We’re approaching the four-minute mile. Developing a project under rigid time constraints challenges your efficiency as an individual, your team's ability to work together – and your sanity. Studio sites are often open-ended projects that never get ‘finished’. There’s always something more important or more pressing. This time-boxed, iterative approach encourages flexibility and rapid response to change. It’s a pressure cooker that doesn’t afford the ability to second-guess decisions.
.net: What were the main challenges of hitting your 24-hour deadline? Did it help to have a decent starting point, such as reusing the existing HTML structure?
Challand: We were able to build upon last year’s redesign, making things a little easier this time. That starting point gave us something to react to. We didn’t have to keep anything, but we could see what was and wasn’t working. While we scrapped the CSS, a lot of the HTML structure stayed the same. We kept the same typeface and some of the basic hierarchy but adopted a much lighter tone, reflecting how our approach as a studio had evolved over the year.
.net: What were the benefits? Would you recommend other agencies give this a go?
Challand: We definitely recommend doing something like this as a team exercise. It encourages teamwork, and forces you to go with your gut and take risks. We all got out of our comfort zone a little, taking on roles we’re not normally comfortable with. It challenges what you know, opens communication, and we’re stronger because of it.
One small tip, though: make it fun. The ‘hackathon’ took place during our week-long summer retreat, dubbed ‘Oakweek’. Our workday included breaks for swimming, grilling, cards, movies, and dark ‘n’ stormys. The site went live 21 hours after we started, with three hours to spare. This kind of redesign might also be easier with smaller teams that have fewer moving parts, so your mileage may vary!
.net: You mentioned regular iteration, and so are you planning on making this redesign a regular thing?
Challand: Since launching the 24-hour redesign, we’ve iterated here and there to fix up a few things that we didn’t have time for: a 404 page, some Easter eggs, IE bugs. Nothing major. As for making this a regular thing, definitely, but once a year is probably enough for us. We’ll see you next year for our one-hour redesign. Kidding … or are we?